Why Do Dogs Chatter Their Teeth – Understand What It Means

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In all my years living with a dog, I have witnessed some pretty bizarre behaviors. But one of the strangest things was seeing my dog’s teeth chattering.

The whole thing left me baffled because I couldn’t figure out if this was another quirky behavior or if there was something wrong with my pooch. If you ever witnessed this phenomenon you are probably wondering, why do dogs chatter their teeth?

While some dogs rattle their teeth when they’re cold, I knew this wasn’t the case with my dog. You see, it was the middle of the summer, and we were more likely to get a sunburn than frostbite while being out in the doggy park.

But low body temperature is just one of several reasons that can cause your dog’s teeth to chatter. And while this behavior may be interesting and funny to watch, it can also be a sign of illness.

why do dogs chatter their teeth

So the next time you hear the sound of your dog’s rattling teeth, don’t simply chalk it up to a random bout of odd behavior.

In this article, I’ll tell you everything you need to know about dog teeth chattering and how to know whether it’s completely harmless or something you should worry about. Keep on reading to find out more!

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What Does It Mean When A Dog Chatters Their Teeth?

There are many reasons why dogs chatter their teeth! Luckily, most of them are harmless and won’t warrant a trip to your veterinarian. However, in some cases, dog teeth chattering can be a sign of a serious medical condition for which your dog will need treatment. 

Like people, dogs sometimes start rattling their teeth as a means to express their feelings or as a natural impulse. But, at other times teeth chattering is a coping mechanism that helps your dog stay in control in a particularly stressful situation. 

As mentioned earlier, dog teeth chattering can sometimes be a symptom of an underlying health problem. If you suspect this is the case with your pooch, it’s important that you schedule an appointment with your veterinarian immediately.

Some of these conditions can be treated or managed with proper treatment, so take your dog to the vet as soon as you can!

Some of the most common reasons why dogs chatter their teeth include:

1. Low Body Temperature

Like people, dogs begin shivering and shaking when they feel cold. When the temperature starts to drop, the muscles in your dog’s body will start to twitch. The twitching creates warmth that raises your dog’s body temperature and helps them to get warm. 

As they begin to shiver, your pooch will use all the muscles in their body, including the neck and jaw muscles. So, as these muscles move, they can cause your dog’s teeth to rattle and produce a chattering sound. 

Short-haired dogs that live in colder climates are more likely to chatter their teeth than their canine counterparts that live in tropical climates. If you live in a colder area, keep your dog indoors only, and invest in a doggy jacket and dog boots to keep your pooch warm. 

Also, certain small breeds like a Chihuahua have a high metabolism, which can affect their ability to regulate their body temperature. This means that your small pooch may feel cold and start shivering and chattering their teeth even if you feel perfectly fine. 

If it seems that your pup’s shivering and teeth clattering is caused by low temperature, cover them with a blanket or dress them in a doggy sweater. Once your pooch gets toasty, their teeth will stop chattering and you won’t have anything to worry about.

2. Excitement And Joy

Teeth chattering is a surprisingly common behavior for excited dogs. If your dog starts chattering their teeth as soon as you bring out their favorite toy, chances are they are chattering because of the excitement.

Also, if your dog starts rattling their teeth as soon as you get home from work, this is probably their way of showing how happy they are to see you. 

Ultimately, if your pooch chatters their teeth only when they are very excited or joyful, this isn’t anything you should worry about. Think of this as another one of your dog’s odd behaviors and go with the flow. 

3. Smelling New Scents

Unlike us humans, our canine companions rely heavily on scent to navigate the world. Scent detection and interpretation are so important to dogs that they even have a secondary scent detection system besides their noses. 

The vomeronasal system, also called the vomeronasal organ, is located near your dog’s nasal bones and has a duct on the roof of their mouth. Essentially, the vomeronasal system gives dogs a chance to literally taste smells. 

To bring all the new and exciting smells into contact with this system, dogs will move their mouth and jaw in a variety of strange ways. It’s common for dogs to chatter their teeth when they are sniffing a patch of grass or concrete that was frequented by other dogs. 

Generally, this type of chattering is more commonly seen in male dogs than females. Also, you’ll notice that your pooch is clacking their teeth slowly and more purposely than when they are chattering from cold or excitability. 

This type of teeth chattering is completely normal, and you shouldn’t be alarmed if your dog is rattling their teeth after sniffing or licking something.

However, you should pay attention to the things your dog licks, especially if they aren’t completely vaccinated. Coming into contact with other dog’s pee and poop exposes your pup to all sorts of infectious diseases, including parvo.

4. Stress, Fear, Or Anxiety

Anxiety, fear, and stress can also cause a dog to chatter their teeth. Dogs that are feeling anxious may chatter their teeth at any time, but the rattling will be more pronounced right before, during, and after a stressful event. 

Dogs that suffer from separation anxiety usually begin chattering when their owners are getting ready to leave the house. Or, if your dog is scared of fireworks, you may notice that they are rattling their teeth during firework holidays. 

In these situations, dogs use chattering as a coping mechanism that helps them handle their fears and anxieties. While the chattering can be alarming to watch, the only thing you can do to help your dog is to find and remove the stressor. 

If your pooch chatters their teeth due to separation anxiety, try crate training and natural calming remedies, and work on desensitizing your dog. A certified behavioral specialist can also work with your dog and help them overcome their fears and anxieties. 

5. Displacement 

Some dogs may rattle and chatter their teeth while interacting with other dogs. In this case, dogs use chattering as a subtle form of displacement, which usually happens when they are feeling scared or threatened by the other dog.

When faced with a threat, a dog will start chattering their teeth to stay calm and pull the other dog’s focus from them. In these cases, the other dog will stop paying attention to your dog and try to figure out where that strange noise is coming from. 

While this type of displacement behavior isn’t typically a problem, you should keep a close eye on your pooch while they are interacting with other dogs. Even if your pup doesn’t seem overly stressed out by the encounter, it’s best to stop the interaction while everyone is still friendly.  

6. Dental Problems

Dogs, like people, can develop painful dental problems that may cause teeth chattering. Gum disease, broken teeth, and cavities can be extremely painful, which can cause your dog’s teeth to rattle. 

It’s common for dogs with periodontal disease to have trouble chewing, eat less food, chew in strange ways, or take more time to eat their whole meal. If your dog suffers from dental pain, they may be reluctant to let you touch their face and mouth.

If your dog exhibits any of these symptoms or you suspect they’re suffering from dental problems, schedule an appointment with your vet as soon as possible. Dental issues can be extremely painful and no dog deserves to suffer from aching teeth.

While most dental problems in dogs can be treated, it’s best that you start treating them as soon as possible. Oral care work on a dog isn’t cheap, and you may end up spending a bucket full of money if your pooch needs oral surgery. 

The best thing you can do to prevent teeth chattering caused by painful dental problems is to check your dog’s teeth regularly. You should also brush your pup’s teeth, ideally every day or at least three times a week to maintain their oral health in peak condition. 

7. White Dog Shaker Syndrome

White dog shaker syndrome, also known as idiopathic steroid-responsive shaker syndrome, causes full-body tremors in small-breed dogs. Since this condition causes dogs to shake, it can also cause their teeth to chatter. 

The exact cause of this condition is still unknown, but it’s most commonly seen in West Highland white terriers, poodles, Malteses, and bichons. If, besides chattering teeth, your pooch has difficulty walking, involuntary eye movement, or seizures, take them to the vet right away.

8. Epilepsy

Epilepsy is the most common cause of seizures in dogs and can lead to teeth chattering and jaw clenching. Besides, seizure-induced teeth-chattering dogs suffering from epilepsy can also drool and foam at the mouth during a seizure. 

If your dog is experiencing any type of seizures, you should take them to your vet right away! Epilepsy is a serious condition, and your pooch will need lifelong treatment to lead a happy and normal life. 

9. Old Age

It’s not completely clear why older dogs chatter their teeth, but this type of behavior is more common in seniors than in puppies and adult dogs. If you have ruled out all other likely causes for your dog’s teeth chattering, it may simply be caused by old age.

Teeth chattering in senior dogs can affect pooches of any size and breed, so it’s safe to say that all geriatric dogs are at the same risk of exhibiting this behavior. 

If you notice that your senior pooch is chattering their teeth, the best thing you can do is observe them. Try to figure out if there is an underlying health problem or another reason that is causing your elderly dog to rattle their teeth.

In the end, the more you know about why your dog teeth are chattering, the more you’ll be able to help them.

To be on the safe side, take your senior pooch to the veterinarian for a full checkup. Your vet can run tests to rule out any serious medical problems. If there is no obvious cause for this behavior and your dog doesn’t seem like they are in pain, then you shouldn’t worry about the teeth chattering.

10. Pain

Teeth chattering can be your dog’s way of showing they are in pain. Unfortunately, most dogs will try to hide that they are in pain to avoid appearing weak, so by the time you notice something is wrong, your pooch will likely be in excruciating pain.

If, besides chattering their teeth, your dog appears agitated or stressed out all of a sudden, they may be experiencing pain somewhere in their body. In this case, a dog will rattle their teeth to communicate their discomfort or as a way to handle the unpleasant feeling. 

If you suspect that your pooch is in pain, take them to your veterinarian or emergency clinic right away. Pain can be a symptom of many different conditions, so your vet will most likely have to run several tests in order to diagnose the problem.

FAQs About Why Are My Dog’s Teeth Chattering

What Causes A Dog’s Teeth To Chatter?

Periodontal disease is the most common cause of teeth chattering in dogs. This extremely painful condition is the result of bacterial buildup, which causes gum inflammation and leads to deterioration of the teeth, bones, and surrounding tissues.

Furthermore, as the teeth start to lose the enamel, they become more sensitive, which can also cause chattering and grinding. 

What Is Chattering Teeth A Symptom Of?

Dogs chatter their teeth for a variety of different reasons. Some of the most common causes of teeth chattering in dogs are low body temperature, fear, anxiety, excitement, scent detection, and displacement behavior.

However, teeth chattering can also be a sign of a serious medical condition. Chattering teeth can be a symptom of dental disease, epilepsy, dog shaker syndrome, old age, or pain. Therefore, it’s important to observe your dog while they chatter their teeth and schedule an appointment with your vet to rule out any underlying health problems.

Why Does My Dog’s Jaw Quiver?

It’s not uncommon for a dog’s jaw to quiver when they are very excited, when they smell a female in heat, or when they find something interesting. Some dogs will chatter their teeth and quiver their jaw when they feel threatened, as a way to distract the other dog. 

Your dog’s jaw can also quiver if they are feeling cold or if they have a fever, so keep a close eye on your dog and keep them warm with a doggy sweater or a blanket. If you suspect that your pooch has a fever, take them to your vet for a checkup. 

Why Does My Dog Chatter His Teeth When He Smells Pee?

Dogs have powerful noses and are able to detect scents that people can’t register. Besides their powerful scent receptors, dogs also have a vomeronasal organ that allows them to taste the smell they are sniffing.

A dog will chatter their teeth while smelling another dog’s pee to get a better sniff and a better chance to analyze all scent molecules.

Dogs use pee as a form of communication, and your pooch can learn a lot about other dogs while sniffing their pee. Chattering their teeth while sniffing pee gives your pooch a wealth of information, including the age, sex, and reproductive status of the other dog.


By now, you have a better understanding of why dogs chatter their teeth and what you should do the next time your pooch starts to exhibit this quirky behavior. In most cases, teeth chattering is completely harmless and nothing to worry about, but sometimes it can be a symptom of an underlying health problem. The most common causes of dog teeth chattering are:

  • Odor detection
  • Periodontal disease
  • Fear, anxiety, and stress

If your pooch chatters their teeth from time to time, observe them carefully and try to figure out what is causing this behavior. If you ruled out all likely causes, err on the side of caution and take your dog to your vet for a full checkup. 

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Why Do Dogs Chatter Their Teeth? Understand What It Means - Closeup of older yellow Lab's teeth, mouth, nose, and muzzle.

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Why Do Dogs Chatter Their Teeth – Understand What It Means was last modified: March 22nd, 2021 by LTHQ

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